FLASHBACK - Hereford oust Barrow
Right now in the summer of 2010, Hereford United will have a new Board of Directors shortly, but perhaps this week is a timely reminder of the gargantuan efforts some of their predecessors made in gaining the Bulls' Football League status in the first place.
Hopefully, the prospective newcomers will soon come to realise what responsibilities they now hold, and the tradition they must uphold, on behalf of the supporters.
Under the so-called 'Old Pals Act' when clubs sought re-election to the Football League, very few clubs were ever demoted. Over the decades many non-league clubs had put their names forward, including Hereford, but with little prospect of success. A closed shop was pretty much in evidence.
Hereford had tried, and failed on frequent occasions. Even a 1966 brochure issued to every First and Second Division club fell on deaf ears.
And so, in October 1970, the thirteen man Hereford United Board of Directors agreed to mount an organised bid, backed by a fully blown public relations campaign. Four months earlier Cambridge United had successfully 'beaten the system' by utilising a PR company. Wigan Athletic, then of the Northern Premier League, announced a similar bid.
United though decided to control their own destiny by undertaking the bid themselves, with the assistance of shareholders who had the necessary media expertise. A sixteen-page brochure was sent to all Football League member clubs, plus follow-up diaries, Christmas cards and New Year calendars. To assist with the costs involved, these were even made available to fans via the club shop. Indeed, according to the accounts of the time, this process was profitable!
Newsletters were printed. The Directors visited other clubs with a 10 minute filmed documentary which put forward Hereford's case for membership in the Football League. Manchester and London venues were used as film venues, with local supporters able to witness the production first hand at the Social Club and Town Hall.
However, in the 1970-71 season United had fallen back in their bid for the Southern League Premier Division title. The Bulls finished only fourth, with Wigan Athletic in the Northern League, and Yeovil Town in the South able to demonstrate a better playing record. Yeovil won the Southern League that year, and reached the 3rd Round of the FA Cup before losing to Arsenal. Meanwhile, Wigan were the Northern Premier League Champions, and had knocked out Peterborough in the FA Cup before losing narrowly to First Division Manchester City at Maine Road.
Despite this United had an amazing average gate of 5,224 - higher than 23 Third and Fourth Division clubs.
But, back in June 1971 Hereford's bid failed. Lincoln City 47, Barrow 38, Hartlepool 33, and Newport County 33 were all re-elected.
United finished next on the list with 22 votes, and despite expensive campaigns Wigan polled only 14 votes, with Yeovil gaining a paltry two!
So, disappointment, but the setback only encouraged the Board still further. United had certainly proved to be the number one contenders for league status.
The next season was to see the culmination of their efforts.
There can be no doubt that the campaign was given a major boost by the team's tremendous FA Cup exploits beating Newcastle United in Round Three after a replay, and holding West Ham to a goalless draw before bowing out at Upton Park in front of a near record crowd. But average attendances were again higher than 29 Third and Fourth Division clubs. Certified Balance Sheets were issued to all voting members outlining United's healthy financial position.
As a result, the date Friday 2nd June 1972, will be etched into the memories of all Hereford United supporters who lived through the process.
Club Chairman Frank Miles was optimistic as he left Edgar Street on the morning of the Cafe Royal meeting in London.
'If all the clubs who have promised to vote for us keep their word, we'll be in the Fourth Division this evening' he said.
Northampton Town, Stockport County, Crewe Alexandra and Barrow were the four clubs seeking re-election.
Astoundingly there was a tie. Both Barrow and Hereford had polled 26 votes each, and another ballot had to follow immediately.
And this time United triumphed, gaining 29 votes to Barrow's 26.
It was the start of a new era at Edgar Street.
Perhaps if you get a chance to meet members of the 2010 Hereford United Board of Directors, you'll remind them of that legacy!